It took a hundred and some years
For critics to admit this bumpkin John
Belonged, although no Lord, no Sir.
He dwindled slowly in Northampton,
Both shocking sane and mad bewildered,
Unmoored from help in Helpstone,
The hometown he had turned to words.
He died among the Babylonians,
His term for his asylum mates.
The man who wrote three thousand poems
Felt the fading of his name
And never cured his hankering for home.

Doctors said that Clare might go
About the town. He liked the village square,
And boys in love brought him tobacco,
Stood a pint of stout, for old John Clare
Could concoct a poem, one wee small verse
To which a girl might say: “I have seen worse.”


Barton Sutter, the author of nine books, is a three-time winner of the Minnesota Book Award. His most recent collection is Nordic Accordion: Poems in a Scandinavian Mood. He has had four verse plays produced, and he often performs as one-half of The Sutter Brothers, a poetry-and-music duo.

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